Wednesday, July 25, 2012

God Bless the Country Church

God bless the country church
Where Christ is born again
In these hands, where feet
Have walked a mile
In everybody's shoes
And never are afraid
To pause by mine.
In the middle of Somewhere,
In the heart of Mississippi,
Where Christ is born again
On the lips of the faithful,
Poured out again
In the hearts of the meek;
This is a place like home to me,
A place where the last
Shall be first and the first
Shall be last, a place
Full of food given whole-heart,
Laughter shared for many miles,
The other cheek turned, because
That's how we were raised.
God bless the country church
That turns its heart toward You.

HT

Monday, July 23, 2012

Wanna Shine Shine Shine?

I always trust any author recommended by my friend Joshilyn, best-selling novelist and blogger that makes me laugh so hard I cry. She posted about a book called Shine Shine Shine by Lydia Netzer, so when that book popped up on my Amazon Vine newsletter, I ordered an advanced reader edition.

I am currently reading this beautiful novel while staying in a cabin in the woods in central Mississippi. Oddly enough, my husband is preaching a revival and there is a revival preacher in the second chapter. I promise, MY revival preacher is nothing like HER revival preacher. Also, the little boy in the story, Bubber, is so much like my Haydn I had to wonder if Lydia knows him.

So, you should buy Shine Shine Shine. Soon. Like, now. At least pop over to Joss' blog and enter a contest to win it. Joss reads the audio version, and if you've never heard her read, you are missing out.

Here is the link: http://www.joshilynjackson.com/ftk/?p=2113

Go. Now. No excuses.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

2012 Theme Update: Year of Mary



I have been reading Mary, Called Magdalene by Margaret George for a few weeks now. I would have finished sooner, but it is an older library copy and prone to loose pages. I didn't want to carry it on the airplane rides to and from Seattle or risk it getting pulled apart inside my luggage. So I left it behind and read a Kindle book on our trip.

Last night, I had less than 100 pages till the end of the book, so I sat in bed reading until around 1 o'clock this morning. I was curious about Ms. George's decision making process, leading me to read her author's note which was printed at the end of the book.

In the note, she explains the legend that Mary was martyred at Ephesus and buried there. She wrote of pilgrimages to that sacred spot and other such things. Then, she listed the Feast Day of Mary Magdalene...

July 22.

My brain went foggy for a moment. I kept thinking it was the 20th, but no, because my older sister had a birthday on the 20th, and that was at least a day earlier. I walked downstairs to ask Corey if it was July 20th or 21st. Seeing as, it was past midnight, he shook his head and told me, "Today is July 22nd."

I don't really believe in coincidence, so this gave me a bit of a start. What are the odds I would finish the book on the Feast Day of Mary Magdalene. I had no idea there even WAS such a day until I read it on that page. I stood in my kitchen a while, wrapped up in the warmth of a tiny arrow sent from God. There is something I felt was happening but wanted assurance. Now, I have that assurance.

I started 2012 with a theme, as I have done each year since 2007 or 2008. I can't remember for sure. Maybe it was 2006, even. Regardless, this year was different than those that went before. Usually, my theme comes in the shape of a word or phrase I feel God pressing into my heart. This year, my theme came in the form of a person. Mary, mother of Jesus. I have been reading a devotional that offers snippets of writing about Mary. I read Showing Mary  and left my Willow Tree Holy Family out where I could enjoy it all year, instead of just at Christmas. Black Madonnas wove themselves into the book I was writing.

Then, I picked up Margaret George's fictional biography of Mary Magdalene. I was feeling very grateful for Margaret, as I referenced one of her books (Memoirs of Cleopatra) in my tornado-themed novel, and sent it off to be read by her very own agent, though I had not realized he represented her. He and I got a laugh out of that "coincidence." So, I was reading the book and opening my Bible to verify things Jesus said. Then, we began packing for a mission trip to Seattle and, suddenly, it hit me that we would be serving at Mary's Place. I assumed this referred to Mary the mother until we arrived for worship with those wonderful women on Saturday morning. The church there is called Church of Mary Magdalene.

I have felt God is steering my theme in a new direction. When I was given my theme, The Year of Mary, I assumed I would be dealing with Our Lady of Heaven, with her willingness to just "let it be," and I've been dealing with just that. But also, I've dealt with other things, things so vague I have no words to tell you about them. But Mary Magdalene has taken up residence to help me deal with them. She and the Blessed Mother are holding hands and watching me with a smile.

At least, I hope it's with a smile.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Things I Brought Home From Seattle

  • A billion Instagram photos
  • Somebody else's razor
  • A deep sense of grace being lived
  • A new kind of respect for my dear friend, Liz
  • Memories of conversations with holy women
  • A twist to my yearly theme
  • The humbling knowledge that a published book will not fix me
  • Two parking tickets
  • An even deeper love for my girls
  • Cravings for real cherries
  • Notes for a future book
  • Notes for the current book
  • New eyes through which to view the South
  • An adorable owl bag
  • A small wooden keychain from Bali

Monday, July 16, 2012

Open-Heartedness

In Seattle, at Mary's Place, I watched our youth work in the kitchen and the clothes closet. I also watched them interact with the women there and actually take the time to get to know them. By the end of the first day, they'd made friends. They knew the names of so many women. They shared stories and cried together. They cuddled babies and asked questions and made me very very proud.

As the week drew to a close, I watched them become so full of God's grace that it spilled over all around them. The proof of this came when we arrived at the Memphis airport and I realized there'd been no fighting or snapping or pouting on our trip. That many teenagers interacting 24/7 for a week typically ends in the grouchies. Corey and I refer to this as "Day 4 Attitudes." I looked at my husband on Day 7 and commented, "There have been no day 4 attitudes."

Since then, I have continued to marvel at the grace that went before us on our trip, the grace that kept our kids smiling and laughing even as we sat around the Houston airport with no idea when or if we'd catch our flight to Memphis. Still, something has nagged at the corner of my spirit, something I want these kids to take away from their trip. Last night, I finally put my finger on it.

It is hard to step past stereotypes and get to know people who are homeless or nearly homeless. I get that. And we talked about coming home and translating this open-heartedness into their relationship to the poor in our own community. We talked about all the ways they can help. What we missed is this:

Can you look past other stereotypes and prejudices for people who are NOT homeless? When caring for women in a shelter, it is easy to feel as though your are the hands and feet of Christ. However, when you are at school or work, do you treat other people with that same grace? Do you take the time to listen to someone's story even when you won't get God's gold star for doing homeless ministry? What about the girl who makes snide remarks behind your back or the friend who leaked a secret you have shared with only her? Can you look past THEIR faults and hear them out? What about your parents, your siblings, your children?

It is wonderful to break down the barriers that keep us from loving people... all people. Whether they are homeless or live in a mansion, straight or gay, male or female, nice or mean, sane or crazy, quiet or loud, normal or strange...  Can you look at EVERYONE and see God's face?

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Bites and Bread



Last week, I tried a recipe for Quinoa Pizza Bites. Haydn loves pizza and would eat pizza everyday without complaint. I thought this would be a good way to get some grain into him without actually making pizza. I could also sneak veggies into these without too much effort. I used EnerG egg replacer and they turned out pretty good. They don't hold together as well as I hoped, and that is probably due to the egg replacement. I have some of them in the freezer for later, but I don't know if I will use this recipe again.




I HAVE finally found a recipe for sandwich bread that Haydn loves. He finished off the first loaf quickly, and I baked a second. I slice it up and store it in a freezer-safe container, so he can thaw a slice here and there. He is spending a week at a friend's house, so I will send a container of bread with him.



The recipe calls for sorghum flour and molasses. Making that first loaf felt crazy. First, I couldn't find sorghum flour, so a friend let me break into her house (with a key) and grab a bag of flour from her freezer.  Thank God for food-allergy friends.  ;) Then, I made a Kroger run for flax meal. I drove home and started making the bread, only to discover I had no molasses. I knew I'd bought a jar at Christmas, planning to make gingerbread cookies. I think I donated it to a food pantry, unopened. So, I made another Kroger run. I was none too pleased with myself at that point. The bread turned out yummy though, and the house smells amazing while it is in the oven.

I made a complete mess of pizza dough last week, so I am choosing to glory in these successes.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Currently: Fly High in July

Current Books: I am about halfway through Mary, Called Magdalene by Margaret George. The boys and I are reading Merits of Mischief: The Bad Apple together, and I am nearing the end of my read-thru of Job in the Bible. In the car, we just finished listening to Martin the Warrior by Brian Jacques.

Current Playlist: A mix of this and that. I am in love with "The Shape of Us" by Ian Britt.

Current Shame-Inducing Guilty Pleasure: I bought a bag I didn't really NEED, though I justified it as a need for our upcoming trip. I did need a suitcase, and I found a $400 bag for $80 at Ross, but I did not NEED a new purse. Well, the bag ended up being the kind that cannot handle my heavy load (buying a Kindle has not ended my need to carry multiple volumes everywhere I go). I had already trashed the tags, so it is a wash. I will find someone who likes it and doesn't carry fifty pounds of books.

Current Colors: Orange and gray. That would be my sister's fault. I tend to pick up color-attractions from Carrie and also from Leila. Perhaps it is a subconscious effort to be more like them. Carrie has a sense of style and self-assurance that I have lacked. Leila has a serenity of home and mind that I envy. I think Carrie's love of orange and gray illustrates that sense of rightness and Leila's love of all things aqua/teal is a perfect manifestation of the peace I see in her.

Current Fetish: Baking bread. I bought a refurbished Kitchen Aid mixer. She is candy apple green, and her name is Joyce. Joyce and I have made cookies, pancakes, 2 loaves of gluten-free bread, one loaf of honey wheat bread and a few other things. It has only been a week, and I love her to the moon and back. Joyce is my grandmother's name. She passed away when I was 8 months pregnant with Haydn. Her kitchen was my first experience of loving food and loving how it is made. I think of her a lot when I am cooking.

Current Food: Homemade bread

Current Drink: *fan girl squeal* Manzana Lift! I had it in Mexico when I was 16. I sneaked one back across the border and into my daddy's fridge. It was meant for my high school graduation. However, my stepmother cleaned out the fridge and trashed my drink. Not with evil intent; she had no idea what it even was. I have searched for the drink for the last 14 years. I couldn't remember the name, just that it was apple flavor and bottled by Coke. One of the college girls I know was over last week, and I mentioned my soda. She is Mexican and knew exactly what I was looking for. She pointed me to a Texaco here in Tupelo, and I have my soda again. I limited myself to two bottles. I drank one immediately and am having one right now. If I keep too many on hand, I will drink them. And I have been 99% off of soda for a while now. Limiting my intake also makes the occasional Manzana Lift even more special. *swoon*

Current Favorite Favorite: Being in my kitchen with dough pounding away in the mixer and flour all over my hands and jeans... Who knew I could be so domestic?

Current Wishlist: A handful of kitchen items. Can I have a shower 10.5 years after the wedding? There is a purse I want at Ross, but I won't let myself buy it after the epic fail of my last purse purchase. A writing retreat to work on the new book (working title: Let Them Eat Cake).

Current Needs: A couple of crowns (dental, not royal), to make a decision about my current book's secondary setting...

Current Triumph: At long last, I have a literary agent, and he loves my writing. The euphoria of this has not worn off.

Current Bane-of-my-Existence: Bad attitudes... mine and those belonging to my children.

Current Celebrity Crush: Nada

Current Indulgence: Homemade iced coffee daily

Current Mood: I'm in a lovely mood. By this time Saturday, I will be in the land of 70 degree summer.

Current #1 Blessing: My family is safe after a rash of violent storms ripped through eastern Kentucky this week. And two friends are keeping my boys while I go to Seattle with the youth. Y'all pray for Jen and Lee Anne.

Current Slang or Saying: I say the phrase "my agent" a lot. It is still a novelty.

Current Outfit: Comfy jeans and my Kentucky t-shirt

Current Link: Sorghum Molasses bread recipe... I have finally found a sandwich bread recipe that Haydn likes. It smells like gingerbread when it is baking.

Current Quote“The greatest compliment that was ever paid me was when one asked me what I thought, and attended to my answer.”  - Henry David Thoreau


Current Photo:  My first homemade loaf of bread (other than gluten-free)

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